Sadiya came to the UK from Somalia, on her own, when she was 13. She didn’t speak any English and had very little formal education. IntoUniversity helped Sadiya with her English and homework and she is now at university studying for a business degree.
What was it like for you when you first arrived in the UK from Somalia?
My 16-year-old sister was already living here with foster parents. I came over by myself when I was 13 and didn’t understand anything. I couldn’t communicate with anyone. I cried a lot and just wanted to stay at home all the time. At school everyone was doing their SATS, but I couldn’t because I couldn’t even understand English. Everyone just kept telling me to leave things out that I didn’t understand.
How did you hear about IntoUniversity?
A lady called Emma from Kensington and Chelsea Council, who was working with my school, brought me to IntoUniversity. I went there four days a week after school and they helped me with my English and with my homework.
How has IntoUniversity helped you?
They gave me encouragement and confidence – they understood my problems and what I really needed. They helped me learn English and do homework. In Year 10, I handed in my GCSE coursework before everyone else! I would never have dreamt of getting eight GCSEs and it is all because of IntoUniversity. Even in the holidays, they help you revise for exams and explain mistakes and any corrections needed. They also helped in applications for university and took me to workshops to prepare me for what university life and study was going to be like.
Do you think your involvement with IntoUniversity and you getting into university has also helped your family?
My other brothers and sisters came over almost five years ago now and the first thing I did was bring them all to IntoUniversity! IntoUniversity helped get them into schools and now they are all following in my footsteps. My brother is applying to university to study medicine!
What achievement are you proudest of?
Probably learning. Learning properly and then achieving grades like everyone else. In Somalia, there was no school, the only time I ever ‘learnt’ was once a week when my uncle was teaching me Arabic.
What would you say to someone who was thinking about attending an IntoUniversity centre?
I would advise anyone to come to IntoUniversity. It gives you a focus and prevents you from going down the wrong paths. You never feel uncomfortable and they offer you a real chance to better your life. They encourage you to study and get higher grades and get into college. They help with everything, even how to fill out online forms – for someone who hasn’t done that before, it’s not easy.
What do you see yourself doing in five years’ time?
A proper job! I hope to get a 2.1 or a 1st from university and then maybe a job in marketing research or something related to my business degree.
What would you do if you were Prime Minister for a day?
I would inform more kids in school about IntoUniversity and then spend money to make sure that each borough has a branch of IntoUniversity.
Many thanks to pro bono expert Sima Varsani for writing this story.